Pentagon cell to push India trade ties

The Pentagon has established a first-ever country special cell -- India Rapid Reaction Cell -- to speed up its defence ties with India and accelerate the process of co-development and co-production of hi-tech military equipment in the country. India is the only country to have a specific cell of its kind inside the Pentagon.  

In a clear signal of India’s importance, both as a major buyer and potential collaborator in the defence sector, the Pentagon has established its first-ever country special cell to speed up defence ties between India and the United States.

The India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC), operational for a few months now, is part of the efforts to pursue all aspects of the India-U.S. Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), officials here said.

In an interview to PTI in Washington DC, Keith Webster, who heads the IRRC, said: “The purpose of the India Rapid Reaction Cell is to work all the initiatives that we have ongoing under (India-U.S.) DTTI (Defence Trade and Technology Initiative) — both the initiatives that for example came out of the joint statement between the (U.S.) President and the (Indian) Prime Minister in January (in New Delhi) — to move quickly and timely and be thorough, which in my opinion requires dedicated support to ramp up the operational tempo.”

Mr. Webster is the Director, International Cooperation Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

“We are embarking on some new initiatives and the operational tempo is not declining at all,” he said.

Established in January 2015 to focus exclusively on advancing the DTTI, IRRC is the only country-specific cell of its kind in the Pentagon. The cell looks at ways to transform bilateral defence relationship without any bureaucratic obstacles, move away from the traditional buyer-seller dynamic to a more collaborative approach, explore new areas of technological collaboration and expand the U.S.-India business ties.

According to PTI, currently seven persons work on the cell, representing various wings of the U.S. Department of Defence. Given the new thrust on India-U.S. defence relationship under the U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, PTI said more officials have expressed keen interest in working at the Pentagon’s India cell for advancing DTTI.

DTTI is an undertaking drawn up by Mr. Carter, when he was Deputy Secretary of Defence, on the directions of his predecessor Leon Panetta in 2012.

A senior Indian official said the DTTI enjoys full backing from both sides and this was articulated by both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015, who had directed the DTTI to focus on pursuing six co-development pathfinder efforts.

He pointed out that a joint U.S.-India DTTI Interagency Task Force also regularly reviews the entire progress of the India-U.S. defence ties.

Over the next few months, India and the U.S. are set to hold a series of high-level exchanges in the defence sector, including a visit to the U.S. by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Officials said defence and strategic relationship would be a key topic of discussion when Mr. Obama meets Mr. Modi on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month.

Mr. Webster said the cell that he heads has been instrumental in accelerating the DTTI projects.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 2:53:53 PM |

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